Note: This story is done as Part 1 to a 4 part arc, where the three other parts will be written by other authors or if needed it will be finished by me. At the end of the story I’ll place links to parts 2-4. This is done for the Flash Fiction Challenge by Chuck Wendig.
The sight never bothered him. The smell on the other hand? Now that bothered him.
Darrin held a yellow handkerchief to his nose and mouth, kneeling over the body. The community was small, a mere two hundred or so folks, and he didn’t recognize this man. What was normal back home was so uncommon out here.
“Do you recognize him?” Liberty asked, looming above him with her glasses high on the bridge of her nose, and her hair pulled back all businesslike. She was the boss on the job, but not the boss of him, and he liked reminding her of it.
“Dunno. You recognize him?”
Her lips pursed tight. He loved riling her up almost as much as he loved hiding the fact that he loved it.
The back of the cadaver’s tailored suit was wet with blood. Darrin lifted the jacket revealing a large gaping hole underneath. Liberty exhaled in disgust.
“This,” he jabbed at the wound with a gloved finger, “is curious. Something made this much mess and didn’t rip through the back of his jacket?”
“Call the MSA and get them down here. We have a job to do.”
“Moon Station Authority?” he scoffed, still poking at the wound. “Maybe he got a worm. I heard those buggies get in your stomach and eat their way out. There was this guy I knew—”
Liberty was leaving him behind.
“Hey! I was telling you a story here!”
She pushed a panel in the wall and from behind the MBA’s emblem, the Earth with the moon eclipsing it, a computer console unfolded. There was a buzzing as the video panel attempted to contact the authorities.
“I’m tell you that we’re getting back to our jobs, or you’re fired. How long will the company keep you here without reassignment?”
The static on the screen flickered, and formed the green outline of an officer’s face.
“I’d like to report a murder,” Liberty spoke with an edge, like the MBA officer was below her. She continued to give details even before the officer could ask questions.
Still kneeling over the body, Darrin searched his memory trying to recall if he’d ever med the man before. He was middle-aged, meaning he was management if he were in the station. If the man was management everyone would know him.
“That guy I knew?” he spoke to the cadaver to finish his story, and fill the hole formed when obstinate women like Liberty never listened. “Worms laid eggs in him and a whole colony of them ate their way out. You’re different though, aren’t you pal? What the hell happened?”
Atmos Corporation. If you didn’t love them it didn’t matter. They were number one in space flight, and spearheading the formation of colonies off world. Every kid dreamed of the stars, being an astronaut, living off planet. Imagination was more convincing about getting off Earth than the overcrowded cities and pollution.
Men and women traded in successful careers to work for Atmos, and force the colonization efforts forward. This was as true for Darrin as it was for Liberty and every other overworked underpaid schmuck tunneling through the cold alumina and silica mantle. But after years of dreaming he was finally in space.
He stood in the community shower, ten tiny stalls supporting his entire floor, watching the black dirt swirl around the drain at his feet. All he could see in it was blood. Tendrils of John Doe’s blood, circling the drain.
“It’s the stress, Darrin,” he talked aloud, as he often did when he was alone in the shower. It was a rare occurrence.
Icy cold water shot out of the showerhead, burning him. With a shout, he twisted the knobs to turn off the water. This colony had a long way to go before it was to be considered viable.
Naked, he peeked out of the shabby plastic curtain to see an officer standing beyond. Behind him were two lackeys with shock clubs drawn.
He nodded, not wanting to be tazed soaking wet.
“You gentlemen going to let me get dressed at least?”
Getting dressed proved to be a useless gesture. When they arrived in the offices of the MBA he was undressed, and forced to wear a gray jumpsuit so loose he felt naked again. They sat him in a gray aluminum chair in the gray little room with gray hexagonal tiles on the walls. When he objected to being handcuffed to the gray table bolted to the floor they reminded him of his place with the buzz and zap of a shock club. The warning was all he needed after the last time, two months ago.
The man across the table in his gray little suit was obsessive about each hair on his head. His black hair was caked in gel, slicked back like a skull-fitting helmet. The man was silent for a time, only staring back at Darrin, studying him. He was careful to keep his hands off of the table.
Two months ago when they interrogated him over a mild incident he learned how things worked in the little gray interrogation room. All they had to do was touch the table with one of those non-lethal shock clubs and you were convinced forevermore that lying to the corporation was not in your best interest. Sure, it was horrible, but you had to make sacrifices to make history.
“Mister Hughes, do you know who I am?”
“You’re the boss, Mister Tynes.”
Tynes smiled, revealing immaculately white teeth. He removed a picture from his pocket, and slid it across the table. It was the body from earlier.
Darrin nodded, “Of course. My foreman and I found him and reported the incident to you guys.”
Tynes waved two fingers at the officer standing behind him. The officer walked over to a switch on the wall, flipped it, and the wall length mirror became transparent, revealing Liberty chained to the table in the adjacent interrogation room.
“What I don’t get, Mister Hughes, is why a successful movie producer such as yourself would trade it all in to labor on the moon?”
“I’m here to make history.”
Tynes scoffed, “To make history? Or to be history?”